Consumer confidence in the UK has dropped to levels last seen during the turmoil immediately following last year’s Brexit vote. With so much hanging in the balance, marketers cannot afford to simply ‘keep the wheel turning’ if they want to maintain customer loyalty and engagement.

One of the biggest challenges for marketers is ensuring that their outreach is actually seen, listened to or taken note of by current and potential customers. The spam filter is perhaps one of the most well-known obstacles digital marketers face day-to-day. Despite this, it is one of the least well addressed.

As consumers, we have all received some sort of spam and many of us receive it every single day on a range of different topics. Spam is lazy, generated by bots and sent in bulk, it is uncreative and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Email Service Providers (ESPs) are working hard to thwart the mass email.

It’s easy to assume this status quo will remain in perpetuity, but ISPs are constantly evolving, smartening up their toolset and their current focus is how users engage with certain emails, rather than traditional spam alarms. The line between spam and marketing communications is losing definition.

We have spent a very long time analysing these patterns, to discover what marketers should be avoiding if they want to steer clear of the spam folder.

Key words and terms to cut out of comms

Reaching the inbox is all about keeping a clean sheet with recipients from the get go – the ISP and ESP will follow suit. Where people trust your communications to be valuable and transparent, you’ll never find any difficulty getting through. If, however, you become persona non-grata in the inbox via a series of unopened messages, the ISP responds and the gate is closed for all future communications.

As an example, how often do you receive an email with ‘free’ in the subject line and actually found something for free within the body of the email? These are the sort of emails you just scroll past, or automatically delete and this will impact the sender’s future inbox placement.

So what are other common words or phrases that marketers need to be avoiding to guarantee they are not being mistaken as a spammer or phisher?

Bank names

One of the most common types of email scam at the moment is criminals impersonating banks and sending personalised emails encouraging receivers to share personal details. They regularly link back to paralleled sites that request personal details, meaning emails that include banking or financial names like ‘PayPal’, ‘MasterCard’ or ‘Visa’ often end up in the junk folder, so marketers should avoid including these sorts of details in emails.

Presents or wins

As a marketer if you use words such as ‘gift’, ‘present’, ‘lottery’ or ‘specially for you’ you are expected to end up wasting your outreach. The ‘dear friend’ tactic is still a popular attack, as these types of scams are quick and easy to send so are still very popular and ISPs are working hard against them.


Using words such as ‘invoice’ in a subject line is a big mistake for marketers. This is a cybercrime favourite and will activate the spam alarm. Phishing emails will often contain the word ‘bill’ or ‘statement’ to try and hoax users into opening that email and this can often lead to a criminal hack to try and steal money or data from receivers.

Urgency or concern

We have all received an email from a distant relative we didn’t know existed, who is in trouble and needs you to send them money urgently, or a royal family member from a faraway country offering you a big inheritance. Using wording that indicates financial gain or transferring funds urgently will trigger the spam alarm. Unless you have already got a healthy email relationship with the recipient, try to avoid directing them ‘quickly’ to ‘urgent’ sales ‘now’.

Betting or gambling

When marketers include words such as ‘casino’ or ‘deposit bonus’ in their brand communications, they risk landing in the spam folder rather than the inbox, unless they work for an accredited casino brand. Many spammers often send out emails that will offer high return, free entry or double the chance of winning and if it isn’t a gaming site that the user is acquainted with, they will probably delete or send that message into the spam folder, ensuring that going forwards the ISP direct it to the same place.

While this might be a lot to take-in depending on your brand’s tone of voice and the sector you’re in, remember above all to be passionate in how you reach out linguistically. Marketers need to ensure that their brand messages cut through the noise of the busy inbox. Selective targeting and sending cadence ensures strong deliverability, a strong call to action maintains open rates.


By Josie Scotchmer, marketing manager at Mailjet

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